Forget Button, Mclaren Should Hire Maldonado For Alonso

The internet is abuzz with the news that Fernando Alonso will race in the 101st Indianapolis 500 at the cost of miss the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. When I first read Mclaren and Alonso’s statement, my immediate reaction was to see if any country in the world and with some remote connection with Mclaren and their various stakeholders were celebrating their version of April Fools’ Day on 12th April!
And while Formula 1 fans expressed shock and surprise, American Indy 500 fans were found googling ‘Fernando Alonso’ given the hype around the series’ new signing and his possibility of winning the ‘Triple Crown’ (winning the Indy 500 + Le Mans 24 Hours + Monaco Grand Prix). But of course, out of the triple, victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500 remain. Is an Alonso vs. Maldonado battle is on the cards then?
After his recent Formula 1 struggles, Alonso is clearly positioning himself as a driver seeking greater glory than a Formula 1 championship and like Mclaren’s official statement pointed out, he will be driving the same package that won the race last year. For brand ‘Fernando Alonso’, this could be a masterstroke, expanding his horizons outside of Formula 1 (and not in the world of Hollywood and Music!).

Alonso’s appearance in the Indy 500 is a one-off but already sends a few signals to the powers and fans of Formula 1. First, this isn’t Mclaren-Honda or Monaco’s loss alone. This is Formula 1’s loss. To lose one of the most talented drivers to a rival series for their most prestigious event does indicate that Alonso’s threat to deflect to other series should he not find a competitive drive was real. Is the dream reunion between Mclaren-Alonso about to come to an end? And would Bernie Ecclestone have permitted such a move? Is Alonso’s journey in Formula 1 coming to an end altogether? (Fernando Alonso Is Formula 1’s Unluckiest Double World Champion)
Mclaren-Honda probably expected Alonso’s interest to decline should they not deliver a quick car this season. This is why they retained the retiring-but-taking-sabbatical Jenson Button as a reserve. However, Mclaren’s stance seems clear too. They are trying their best to keep Alonso happy while they attempt to fix their car and engine. If Jenson Button does return, I am excited to see how he fares in the new cars. The former World Champion might not have lost much speed though. He was disqualified for speeding in the recent triathlon he competed! (Mclaren Is The Fan Favourite For 2017)
However, I believe that Mclaren should bring back Pastor Maldonado as Fernando Alonso’s replacement and not Jenson Button. Here are a few reasons behind my recommendation:

  1. Jenson Button will charge a fee from Mclaren-Honda, while Pastor Maldonado will pay to drive for them. At this moment, Maldonado’s sponsor status isn’t confirmed, but I am sure he’ll find a few millions, if he needs to. There’s a lot of space on the Mclaren-Honda car to accommodate Maldonado’s sponsors. (Formula 1 Misses The Legend Of Pastor Maldonado)
  2. There’s little chance that without an Alonso in the car, scoring points in Monaco might seem impossible. In which case, wouldn’t it make sense to earn some from Maldonado? Their season earnings will anyway hit an all-time low.
  3. Given Maldonado’s reputation, it would be a case of who will crash first, Crashanaldo or the Honda engine? Maybe, this will take the attention away from their GP2-spec Honda engine. (The Joke Is On Mclaren-Honda)
  4. Like Kevin McCartan pointed out on Facebook, Maldonado could clear the field and Vandoorne could take his maiden win!

Will we miss Fernando Alonso? Of course. There’s little doubt that Alonso’s humour and personality have undergone a transformation (for the better) ever since he moved to the slow-paced Mclaren-Honda a few seasons ago. Maybe the Mclaren-Honda is so slow that it allows him time to think of some really interesting radio messages. As for Indy 500, they’ll benefit from having a driver who is super quick and can deliver funny radio messages too. Can Formula 1 broadcast a few of those on their world feed for Monaco?
On that note, here’s a tune-in for this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast – ‘Have Ferrari Forgotten Team Orders?

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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